What is the clearest indication that all is well with Philippine-American relations?
It is the fact that after all the political bombast from President Duterte, troops from both countries are still undertaking joint military exercises.
This means none of the verbal outrage of the President has gotten in the way of special bylateral relations between Washington and Manila.
And this is a good sign for the prospect of such relations over the long term.
It is reassuring that both camps are considering Duterte’s fiery remarks as nothing but bumps on the road.
“The (US military) relationship has not changed as of today,” Philippine defense department spokesman Arsenio Andolong told AFP on Monday.
The US Embassy in Manila urged the Philippines on Tuesday to live up to previous agreements.
“We will continue to honor our alliance commitments, and we expect the Philippines to do the same,” embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina told AFP.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the military was aware of Duterte’s comments.
But “it hasn’t really so much translated into tangible actions that we’ve seen with regards to our actions under the alliance,” he said.
And so let the war games continue to enhance mutual defense capability.
Thus, the Philippines and the United States launched war games on Tuesday against the backdrop of the unusual threat of American forces being ejected from the Southeast Asian nation, as its firebrand leader pivots to China.
Duterte has sustained a verbal assault on the US, the Philippines’ former colonial ruler and mutual defence partner, since he took office on June 30 in response to criticism of his deadly war on crime.
Duterte has in recent days warned the war games will be the last of his six-year term, and threatened to scrap a defence pact implemented by his predecessor that was meant to see more US troops in the Philippines to counter Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.
“Better think twice now because I will be asking you to leave the Philippines altogether,” Duterte said on Sunday in his latest outburst against the Americans, full of typical invective.
Last week Duterte, 71, also claimed the CIA was plotting to assassinate him.
This came after he branded Barack Obama a “son of a whore” in response to being told the US president planned to raise human rights concerns over his drug war.
Duterte has vowed to eradicate illegal drugs in the Philippines, warning the nation is in danger of becoming a narco-state.
His crime war has seen more than 3,000 people killed, with the United Nations, the European Union and rights groups raising concerns about alleged extrajudicial killings and a breakdown in the rule of law.
Duterte has insisted he is not doing anything illegal, yet at the same time said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug users.
He also likened his crime war to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s effort to exterminate Jews, but following an outcry apologized for referring to the Holocaust.
A total of two thousand troops from the two sides are taking part in the war games, including in waters close to flashpoint areas of the South China Sea.
China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, and has in recent years built artificial islands in the disputed areas capable of hosting military bases.